A Radical Love
Luke 6: 27-36
Who is Jesus talking to here?
Who was it that was listening to Him preach these words?
Who is Jesus commanding to love their enemies?
Well, this text comes out of Luke’s Sermon on the Mount, a sermon Jesus preached for the purpose of laying out what it looks like for someone to follow Him – to be a Christian. And if you look back to verse 20 where the sermon starts you will see that while there is a large crowd of people listening in, it is really His disciples that He is talking to.
20 “And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said”
Christ wants to challenge us to rethink our concept of love today.
If the central ethic of Christianity is love, who are we to love, and how far does our love go? Are there limits and boundaries to the love which Christ calls us to?
The Scope of Love
The Span of Love
The Source of Love
The Scope of Love (Luke 6:27, 32, 35)
What I mean by the scope of love is the object of our love. Who are we to love?
And the radical command Jesus has for His disciples, for anyone who would claim to follow Him is that they must love their enemies.
27 “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies”
Well “enemies” is Jesus’ way of talking about the full spectrum of neighbours that we could have.
We are to love those that we would normally consider our enemies. In other words, we are supposed to love all our neighbors, even those who mistreat us.
Even those who listen to loud music next door,
Even if their dogs poop on our garden or lawn
Even if they are grumpy every time we say hello.
Disciples of Jesus must even love neighbors who are enemies.
32 “If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them.
And the reason Jesus has to go here is because the Pharisees had defined “neighbours” in a much different way.
In Leviticus God said: “‘Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD. (Leviticus 19:18)
And the Pharisees had seen the wording and decided that this verse put limits on what kinds of loving responses they were required to have towards people. Namely “neighbours” referred only to fellow Israelites. And now that Israel was part of the Roman Empire there were a lot of people walking around that this didn’t apply to.
Now before we look at what it means to love our enemies I am compelled to say that love is hard no matter who you are talking about.
There are few people that I know I love. I love my wife. I love my son. Those ones are the easy answers; beyond that even when discussing extended family it sometimes starts to get complicated for me. I know your families are perfectly lovable, but sometimes mine isn’t.
But that aside, even when I just talk about loving my wife and son, love isn’t easy. Early in the morning at 5am someone started crying. I woke up first but I didn’t want to get out of bed, instead I said “hey love are you sleeping? Rufus is crying” and somebody else got out of bed. Isn’t that terrible!
Love has to be a physical action or else it is not love at all. Love requires selflessness on my part, even when it comes to people I really like. If you aren’t married don’t judge me, your time is coming.
But what is Jesus really saying here?
If we go from the original understanding of our neighbor and see Jesus’ transitioning thought to redefine our neighbor as our enemies, then we must understand that this includes every person in between.
Do you love the coworker who annoys you?
Do you love someone who is completely different from you? Different tribe, different taste, different personality?
These are the people Jesus calls us to love, not just those who are friendly to us and those who are diametrically opposed to us, but everyone in between.
2. The Span of Love (Luke 6:27-31)
And it may be easy for Christians to say that they love their enemies and yet still limit what that love looks like.
“I love you but I don’t like you”
Essentially, they are saying that they “love” someone that they don’t really like because they are called to love, and instead of attempting to genuinely love them, they excuse their inaction.
But in this passage Jesus presents a love that costs and works.
Jesus defines in seven parts what it will practically look like for His disciples to love their enemies.
Love for Jesus isn’t something that happens in our head or our heart. All seven examples Jesus gives are actions that we are called to do.
First Jesus says “do good to those who hate you”
Jesus calls those who would be His followers not just to avoid being evil back but to proactively do good.
Jesus doesn’t tell us “don’t react meanly to those who hate you”, He tells us to do good to those who hate you.
33 And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same.
This involves being proactive. Not just avoiding evil but actually doing good in the face of evil. And it is this kind of love that separates children of God from everyone else. Nobody does this unless Jesus is working within them.
2. Next Jesus says in verse 28 “Bless those who curse you”
If first we are called to do physical actions of good to those who oppose us, here we are called to speak positively to those who slander or defame us. Imagine hearing that someone said something really nasty behind your back, but then choosing not to bite your tongue, but rather to say something really positive about them behind their back. Again what Jesus calls His disciples to is totally unnatural.
Example: My anger towards hospital staff last week.
3. Then Jesus tells us “Pray for those who abuse or mistreat you”
Not only are we to do good and speak good but we are actually to pray for good for those who mistreat us. Many interpret this verse as saying “pray that they will repent and change the way they treat us.” Actually that isn’t what is being called for.
In the context Jesus is calling His followers to pray that God will bless these people. That good things will happen to them, that God’s face will shine upon them and He won’t punish them. That is what we are called to pray for. That is what Jesus prayed for His enemies while He was hung on the cross in Luke 23:34:
“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
Do you always need to defend your reputation?
Are you willing to face shame for the sake of love?
Are you beginning to see just how radical a love Jesus is calling His followers to live out?
It doesn’t get any easier.
4. Next Jesus says in verse 29 “To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also”
There are two possible interpretations here.
Now I don’t think it can mean pacifism in general such that we aren’t to defend even our families or those around us or even our faith when they are attacked because we constantly see Jesus coming to the defense of the poor and oppressed, women and children and even the temple.
But it may be calling us not to defend ourselves when we are attacked physically. This of course is the example Jesus gave us when He was attacked. All the legions of angels in Heaven were at His disposal, and yet He let us hang Him on that tree. That’s the first possibility.
Or second, the strike referred to here could be one that is not meant to hurt the body but the pride. Imagine someone taking one of his gloves off and slapping his enemy across the face. It is meant to insult a person. This explanation also fits Luke 6:22 where Jesus warned that we would be insulted for the sake of the Son of Man. When insulted, do not retaliate. Let people insult you. We must be willing to suffer insults and humiliation again and again for Christ
And to that Jesus is saying allow yourself to be insulted. In fact, let them insult you again.
I’m not suggesting that we ought to be pacifists and allow anyone to do us physical harm, but for the sake of love are you willing to risk it?
Are you willing to endanger yourself for the sake of love?
5. Fifth Jesus says “and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either” i.e., “Offer your shirt to whoever would take your coat”
Now this could be referring to being robbed on the street and giving over more than is asked for but it is more likely referring to encountering someone in need. Our heart needs to be such that we care more about the people we meet than we do about our own possessions.
Jesus presents a love that costs our possessions. Are you willing to lose some of your possessions for the sake of love?
6. Jesus commands in verse 30 “Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back” i.e., “Lend to everyone who asks and don’t demand your stuff back”
Jesus presents a love that costs money.
34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount.
Are you willing to give freely of your money for the sake of love?
So Jesus challenges us to love both by giving what is needed AND by not demanding what is owed.
In verse 31 Jesus sums up the whole list with his seventh and final statement.
7. “And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them”.
Now here we find two laws bumping up against each other, there is a natural law and a supernatural law. The natural makes sense to everyone, the supernatural makes sense only if you are a Christian. The natural law is good business practice, the supernatural law is the craziest business practice you could ever imagine. The natural here would read this as saying “don’t do something you wouldn’t want someone to do to you”. That makes total sense from a worldly perspective – basically “don’t provoke someone to hit you back”.
But Jesus’ statement isn’t anything like that. Here He calls us to do for people what we would like them to do for us even though there is no promise and not even a prospect that they will return the favor.
3. The Source of Love
How could Jesus possibly ask this of His disciples? Who in the world could love like this?
Jesus could ask this of us because He did it first.
A. When Christ Loved You First, So You Love Other First (Romans 5:8)
Romans 5:8 “ but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us..”
Jesus asks us to love our enemies because He loved us when we were His enemies.
Romans 5:10 “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son”
Jesus asks us to love our friends even when they fail because He loves us still even though we fail.
B. When Christ Loved You at Your Worst, So You Love Those Worst
But some of you may say, “But pastor, you don’t understand how awful this person is.” And my answer to you is, “No, you don’t understand how awful you were, and still are.”
Christ loved the worst of all sinners, so we are liberated to love the worst of sinners around us.
C. When Christ Loved You Much, So You Love Much
This is why Christ could ask this of us. Not because we are capable of doing this on our own, but because it has already been done for us.
35 But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. 36 Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.
We are called to be merciful BECAUSE God is merciful. We are called to show kindness to those who don’t deserve it BECAUSE God is kind to the undeserving.
The Command to act is possible because God is our Father. And this is the mystery of the Gospel. Salvation begins with God. Jesus came to us while we were still His enemies.
Jesus’ policy calls us to a higher standard. A standard that doesn’t make sense to the world we live in. A standard that is motivated by selfless love and a desire to bless our neighborhood more than look out for our stuff.
Friends, it’s time for a policy change. It’s time for New City to become a place where the world knows they can come for help. And a place where people don’t have to be perfect to receive it. We must be the voice and hands of mercy whether it is with the big things or the little things, and we must do this as the evidence that we are our Heavenly Father’s children.
My brothers and sisters, I challenge you to love without limits. I challenge you to love the unlovable and everyone in between. I challenge you to love them at a cost, to love actively and passively. I challenge you to always remember how Christ loved you, so that you can bend that love outward to others.